The fourth edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night, with Georgia remaining the No. 1 team in the nation. However, the rest of the top four saw an uproar, with Ohio State jumping two places to number 2 and Alabama sliding one to number 3. With Oregon shelling out in Utah on Saturday, the Ducks fell completely out of the top four with Cincinnati finally breaking through in the final slot.
The Bearcats, at 11-0 with two Power Five wins, became the first Group of Five program to be placed among the top four in the CFP rankings. Cincinnati has made history all season as the highest-ranked Group of Five program in the process, but now appears to have a legitimate shot at making it to the playoffs. Whether that will materialize is something CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm will discuss in his analysis below.
Oregon’s road loss not only knocked the Ducks out of the playoffs, but dealt a final blow to the Pac-12 as a whole. It is almost certain that the conference will be excluded from the CFP for the fifth year in a row. The two remaining teams with one loss from the Big 12 will compete in Bedlam on Saturday, while Oklahoma State hosts Oklahoma. There’s a chance the Cowboys and Sooners could play twice in as many weeks, threatening the Big 12’s playoff candidacy as well. Baylor currently has a lead over Oklahoma, but a team with two losses has never made it to the playoff.
In CFP history, no team that is outside the top seven at this late point in the season has moved to the field of four teams after the conference championship games. The No. 7 team has gone to the top four twice: Oklahoma in 2017, Georgia in 2019. Also, the top four teams with two sets to go have never all made it to the top four until the final top 25.
Let’s take a look at the entire top 25 CFP rankings. Keep reading for Palm’s expert analysis.
College Football Playoff Ranking, November 23
- Georgia (11-0)
- Ohio State (10-1)
- Alabama (10-1)
- Cincinnati (11-0)
- Michigan (10-1)
- Our Lady (10-1)
- State of Oklahoma (10-1)
- Baylor (9-2)
- Ole Miss (9-2)
- Oklahoma (10-1)
- Oregon (9-2)
- Michigan State (9-2)
- BYU (9-2)
- Wisconsin (8-3)
- Texas A&M (8-3)
- Iowa (9-2)
- Pittsburgh (9-2)
- Wake Forest (9-2)
- Utah (8-3)
- NC state (8-3)
- State of San Diego (10-1)
- UTSA (11-0)
- Clemson (8-3)
- Houston (10-1)
- Arkansas (7-4)
Previously Unranked: Clemson
Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm
The people of Cincinnati are probably celebrating. However, it is not over yet. The Bearcats do not have their own fate for the CFP in their own hands. Cincinnati doesn’t have to worry about Notre Dame making it, but a 12-1 Big 12 champion, whatever school in Oklahoma it is, is still a threat. The Bearcats’ strong schedule, even after playing in East Carolina and Houston, will be by far the worst of the CFP candidates.
The committee will have to seriously consider which team is number 4 if Alabama, Georgia and either the state of Ohio or Michigan are all 12-1. I would prefer Cincinnati, but nothing is a given.
It also doesn’t matter if that Big 12 team is Oklahoma State or Oklahoma, even though the Sooners are three spots lower than the Cowboys. They are basically the same team. The Pokes currently have the best win and worst loss of the two, but whoever comes in at 12-1 will beat a ranked team twice to do so. It doesn’t matter which of those teams, if either one comes out of the Big 12 at 12-1, that team will be treated the same. Their maximum benefit is identical.
So are Ohio State and Michigan, but if either one comes to 12-1, there will be no doubt about a spot in the playoff.
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The Buckeyes made the jump to No. 2 based on the Michigan state tearing up over the weekend and that Alabama had a close game with Arkansas. Barta said last week that the committee had long debated which of those teams, along with Oregon, should have been second in the rankings. So if there was any doubt then, Ohio State has cleared it for now.
In the end it doesn’t matter. If Alabama comes to 12-1, the Crimson Tide will be the No. 1 team no matter what the Buckeyes do. If the Tide eventually loses, they certainly wouldn’t end up in front of a 12-1 Buckeyes.
For Michigan State, as bad as the loss to Ohio State looked, the Spartans only dropped to 12th place and could still be in the game for a New Year’s Six game. There are six automatic qualifiers, the top five conference champions and the highest ranked conference champion of the Group of Five who qualify. After that, it’s the six best at-large teams.
As it stands, the Spartans are the seventh best potential team, but most likely at least one of the top three Big 12 teams would eventually fall behind them. Of course, Michigan State still has to beat Penn State this weekend, and MSU is currently a one-point underdog.
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